Derb Ghallef Valley

On the Crisis Between Commerce and Creativity in Morocco

Derb Ghallef is an iconic permanent flea market in the city of Casablanca. This is the kind of places in Morocco (there are many of them in every major city) people visit to buy everything from smart phones to furniture, to laptops, to counterfeit sportswear to pirated DVDs. It is often bustling with people from all walks of life.

In recent years some people started calling the place “Derb Ghalef Valley,” as it became the hub of a creative new breed of IT wizards, high-tech hackers, iPhone jail-breakers, skilled handypersons, many of whom are unemployed graduates.

Derb Ghallef is somehow the symbol of Moroccan informal economy, but it is also a byword for a flourishing counterfeiting industry. It’s a tolerated black market operating in the open–a haven for pirates and counterfeiters.

Everybody seems to enjoy it though. Why indeed buy a patented operating system in the regular market for example when you can have the exact same copy at a 500 time lower price in Derb Ghallef?

Morocco has been steadily opening its market to global competition recently. It has already signed a number of treaties regarding intellectual property (IP) and at some point down the road it will have to comply with regulations imposed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations’ body administrating international treaties on IP.

What would happen should the TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property) requirements, ratified by Morocco, be fully implemented (as they should have been 7 years ago)? Will places like Derb Ghalef simply vanish? What would happen to the people who make a living out of counterfeiting and piracy? Would the Moroccan consumer be better off without Derb Ghallef? Is there a way to strike a good balance between a restrictive intellectual property rights (IPRs) regime and a complete laissez faire policy?

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Foreign Policy: Speaking Truth to Power

Following is my response to Foreign Policy on what I’d learned about the United States’ response to the protests in Morocco. Read more reactions here from other people from across the Arab world.

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As U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to give a seminal speech on the Middle East on Thursday, Foreign Policy asked key dissidents and activists across the region what they’d like to see from the administration.

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